Obama and Black Liberation Theology; Questions Still Unanswered

Article excerpt


So, Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news. That is not a surprise. What is surprising is that the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has missed an important issue. The focus has been primarily on Mr. Obama's relationship with his pastor and the pastor's inflammatory, divisive statements. The lens needs to be widened.

Those who defend Mr. Obama make the point that Mr. Wright has retired and no longer serves on the former's advisory committee. They say that this ends the matter. (i.e. Let's move on, there are more important things to talk about.) After all, Mr. Obama has disassociated himself from Mr. Wright's "out of context" statements and continues to put distance between them - even if he has not chosen to separate himself from Mr. Wright.

Mr. Obama's controversial relationship with Mr. Wright is a convenient, understandable, made-for-television news story. However, television may not the best forum for a complex, difficult-to-ask question which yet remains unasked and unanswered: Why does Barack Obama belong to a church known to be a leader in a seemingly radical, black-centric, movement known as black liberation theology? And the follow-up question is this: How will Mr. Obama's association with this movement influence his beliefs, ideas, and actions as president of the United States?

Mr. Obama has said that he has not heard many of the statements made by Mr. Wright. But it is likely that Mr. Obama knows about the philosophy, principles, values and teachings of black liberation theology, which is the foundation of his church - the wellspring from which Mr. Wright's divisive rhetoric flows. Mr. Obama's veracity and integrity, or at least his judgment, will be subject to question if he denies having detailed knowledge of black liberation theology. And if he knows about the movement, why would he align himself and his family with such a theology for some 20 years?

Black liberation theology has its roots in the racial turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. Although Mr. Wright wants us to think that black liberation theology is the typical message of black churches, many black pastors view it as a misguided if not an aberrant form of Christianity. The main theme is not freedom from man's sin by salvation in Christ, but the black struggle for freedom from the oppression of whites.

Historical, orthodox Christian beliefs are redefined in black liberation theology. For example, the words "Christ," "salvation" and "gospel" are all the same, but the emphasis is the black experience of deliverance from slavery and ongoing deliverance from political, economic and social oppression by whites. Whites are often portrayed as the real demonic forces of this age. Traditional biblical Christianity is dismissed as an irrelevant, oppressive white man's religion. …